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UPDATE: IEDC approves 3 Regional Cities winners instead of 2

December 15, 2015

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. on Tuesday voted to approve Regional Cities grants of $42 million each to north central, northeast and southwest Indiana, one more region than originally planned.

The winning bidders involve areas including South Bend, Fort Wayne and Evansville.

The grant program's review committee recommended three winners instead of two because a tax-amnesty period that's funding the program has collected nearly $50 million more than its goal.

The original plan for the Regional Cities program was to provide a total of $84 million to two regions. The new plan would spend $126 million. The additional expenditure will need approval by the General Assembly during the session that begins next month.

Seven regional bids from around the state were submitted in recent months. Northwest Indiana, the Wabash River region, the Indianapolis area and Muncie were the regions not picked for the grants.

"These are all winners," Gov. Mike Pence said of applicants who pledged to use the state dollars along with local funding and private investments to build and redevelop amenities such as walking trails, rail lines, theaters and historical buildings. "All these proposals that you can examine online are very impressive and they represent a level of thinking and collaboration and thoroughness that is impressive."

Pence said his plan aims to make Indiana's metro areas more desirable places to live by providing a monetary boost to encourage better urban planning. If successful, that could stem the outflow of younger Indiana residents who seek employment elsewhere.

Indianapolis pitched a unsuccessful proposal that included help for the proposed Red Line rapid transit route, the 16 Tech innovation district, and an expanded trail and bikeway system.

GOP lawmakers who dominate the Legislature has been mixed about whether they'll support the additional $42 million in funding.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, said he supported the idea. Meanwhile, House Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown, R- Crawfordsville, was ambivalent, indicating that his priorities were those laid out by Speaker Brian Bosma, including transportation funding, teacher pay and "curbing illegal drug activity."

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